Stranded in a world of sports

by Mercadees Hempel | Managing Editor
Published: Last Updated on

With autumn comes crunchy leaves, chilly weather, sweaters, Thanksgiving and football season. Crisp blue jerseys will be donned every Sunday. Grocery store lines will be miles long, customers’ carts filled with chips, soft drinks and other goodies. Everyone will gather around their televisions or in the stadiums with their friends and family, and cheer and shout at every play and every ref’s call. Well, everyone except me.

I am not a sports fan. In fact, I am so  ignorant of all things sports to the point where it is a joke among my friends. The number one thing people want to know is why I hate all sports.

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Cartoon by Kyle Dunbar

Is it because there were no sports fans in my home? Well for a while, my dad was a basketball fan, his bedroom lovingly decorated with all things Michael Jordan. I remember him and some of his friends gathering around to watch the Chicago Bulls, a team that is pretty close to my heart but only because of “Space Jam.” When my dad watched the games though I never joined in because even back then I just didn’t get it. Even my dad’s interest in basketball didn’t even last. Jordan retired, and Dad stopped watching the games. (Basketball careers end, but “Space Jam” is forever.)

Looking back now, I realize that what it comes down to is the attitudes sports bring out in people. Although I liked playing basketball with my brother in our backyard,  I hated it in the gymnasium of our schools with my classmates. I hated the aggression that  the game brought out in them. I hated that if  I made one mistake nobody would look at me afterwards. I hated that everyone took what was supposed to be fun so seriously, as if it were life and death. And if I did happen to mention that I liked playing basketball, I was immediately quizzed on scores, names and numbers. If  I didn’t know the answer, then I guess I didn’t deserve to be a fan of a sport.

This aggression does not seem like it is something only associated with young sport fans. Riots break out when the wrong sports team loses. People get into arguments if someone dares to wear a different color jersey. Screaming matches can be heard across the room between two people who are supposed to be friends about how this player is better than that player.

I have heard fans say they wish a certain player would die or break a limb because then the status of the game may change.  I have seen parents teaching their little kids, who cannot have any idea of what’s going on, to boo a certain player when they come on the screen. I find it revolting, but apparently, this is what is considered “normal.”

The aggression people developed, the competition, the fact that our schools would be an ocean with all of the blue jerseys before game days, the foreign language that would be riddled with sports talk and of course, the harsh judgment because I didn’t get it eventually turned me off sports altogether. I hung out by the sidelines during gym. I got more into rollerblading than basketball. I read books and watched movies when nothing but sports was on television. And I stayed in my bubble of not getting it.

But here’s the thing: I do kind of understand. Not the terminology or the strategies, of course, but I do get why sports appeal to people.  I don’t like sports, but I like sports movies, and the scenes where the players are on the field can be legitimately exciting. Sometimes I think of how it must be better in real life. I went on school field trips to hockey and baseball games, and the sense of community was very apparent. It is one I don’t think I am particularly attached to when it comes to sports, but I do understand.

We all have our own “thing,” the activity or group that gives us a sense of community, of belonging. For some, it’s sports. For me, it’s watching “Doctor Who” and “American Horror Story” with my friends and family. It’s going to rock concerts, it’s standing outside of the Irving Theatre waiting for the doors to open, it’s discussing the latest “Game of Thrones” fan theory with my best friend. You have jerseys, while I have costumes, and while you talking about the latest Colts game sounds like gibberish to me,  I cannot imagine how my discussion of Daleks or the realms of Westeros sounds to you.

Like I said, we all have our thing, and it’s okay that we are all different. So why do I want to explode whenever someone mentions football?

Maybe because this thing that supposedly brings people together has made me feel like an outcast. It was and still is an elite club that I just cannot get into. I didn’t get it, and nobody tried to help me get it. Thus, I don’t watch games on Sunday, I never went to a high school football game and have not been to a college one either, and on Mondays, I sit at my desk quietly while everyone else talks about last night’s game around me. I know I’m not the only person in this position. But man, you can feel so small, lost and alone in that sea of blue.

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